The ‘333 Method’ Is The Ultimate Packing Hack For Your Next Trip

Taking a vacation is a great way to unwind, relax and enjoy some time away from the stresses of everyday life. Packing for vacation, however, feels anything but relaxing.

Even seasoned travelers can feel a sense of dread trying to figure out the right outfits and individual pieces to pack before a trip. There are also the inevitable concerns about space, unexpected weather and forgotten items.

Perhaps that’s why the “333 method” is so appealing. This packing system has attracted fans across the TikTok sphere thanks to its streamlined and stress-free approach.

What is the ’333 packing’ method?

The concept is fairly simple: Choose three tops, three bottoms and three pairs of shoes to create different outfit combinations. The result is more than a dozen looks that fit easily in your carry-on luggage.

“The 333 rule helps address the fear of overpacking, while also ensuring you look the part,” Katy Nastro, spokesperson for the flight alert service Going, told HuffPost. “An unexpected benefit is you have an excuse to pick up an item or two on the trip — you packed light after all.”

If you look to TikTok, you’ll find endless videos of travelers showing off all the different vacation outfits they manage to make with their nine pieces. The source of this trend is influencer Rachel Spencer, who posted a video breaking down the method in October as a guide to creating a simple capsule wardrobe for fall. In her subsequent 333 videos, she’s managed to put together more than 20 different styled outfits.

“A similar concept was created by Courtney Carver as a fashion challenge to simplify our lives back in 2010,” Nastro explained. “The original challenge was to lean on a capsule wardrobe for creation of 33 outfits to wear over three months. A rebirth of the challenge takes the minimalist dressing approach even further applying it to not just travel but seasonal looks as well.”

Even if you can’t perfectly stick to the limit, she believes the 333 method is a great jumping off point for packing that you can build upon as needed.

“Yes, you can dress pieces up, but certain trips might need more formalwear, in which case you may have to break the rules,” Nastro said. “Using the 333 rule as your basis, you’ll be more conscious overall of how much you pack. Less stuff, less stress, and less unnecessary bag fees paid.”

What’s the best way to make it work?

Fashion influencer Krista Lavrusik frequently posts 333 outfit videos on her social media accounts. She told HuffPost she usually starts her process by choosing three pairs of pants that look great, feel comfortable and provide a mix of dark and light colors.

“I love a long-sleeved turtleneck and a crewneck sweater,” she said. “I’m also into wearing sweaters on your shoulder to add dimension.”

To maximize your outfit potential, it’s helpful to choose three tops that each offer something different and can also be layered together. For example, try one base layer top ― like a tank or T-shirt ― one sweater and one nice button-down.

Lavrusik recommends using the 333 method to push your sartorial creativity to its full potential.

“Every time I do it, I stare at my bed where all my clothes and shoes are and think, ‘Wow this seems too simple. There’s no way I can make 17-18 outfits out of just this.’ But then I do,” she said.

The style expert noted that you can throw in a couple of random pieces ― for example, a dress for a special occasion or an extra top ― if you’re dying to wear them on your trip, but emphasized that less is more.

“My advice would be to invest in the basics,” Lavrusik said. “A pop of color is great here and there, but you’ve got to keep it neutral to get the most bang for your buck. Also accessories go a lot further than we give them credit for ― try adding scarves, belts and baseball hats.”

When Nastro first tried the method, she found narrowing down to three pairs of shoes was a “piece of cake,” while pants required slightly more thought.

“Where the overpacker in me struggled was selecting tops, especially since winter weather is mostly about layering,” she said. “Admittedly, I brought two additional tops outside of the three as a ‘just in case.’ You know what they say, old habits die hard.”

Nastro believes the hardest part of the 333 method is getting past the “what if I need this?” mentality.

“After talking myself down and sticking to basics, putting together outfits was pretty seamless,” she added. “I really was shocked at how many looks I could create from my small carry-on. And the best part ― my two security tops I brought, I never ended up wearing.”

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